These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong – REVIEW

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang-a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns-and grudges-aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Hodderscape.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

“Foreigners arriving in Shanghai to do business for the first time received one warning before learning of anything else: pick a side and pick it fast.”

I’m a huge Shakespeare nerd so was excited to hear we were getting a ROMEO & JULIET retelling set in 1920s Shanghai. THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS by Chloe Gong was everything I hoped for and beautifully captured the spirit of the play. I loved the nods to the original yet the story remained wholly unique and refreshing. 

“Those who do not care, those who are violent, those who delight in that which is terrible…they thrive.”

The evocative setting of a corrupt and debauched 1920s Shanghai overrun by gangsters was as fantastic as it sounds. The Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers were both engaging and I loved discovering their backstories. As heirs to these rival gangs, Juliette and Roma have a bitter history and I was desperate to find out what happened between them in the past. The side characters were just as complex and fleshed-out and the complicated family ties added another dimension to the story.

“They were vultures, all of them – the British, the French and every other newcomer. Circling above the city and awaiting the carnage so they could gorge themselves until they were full.”

The author also explores the wider issue of colonialism and the eradication of Chinese culture. The rival political factions and countries have corrupted the city and are in danger of breaking it beyond repair. This pervasive destruction is highlighted by an unknown monster sowing the seeds of madness amongst the populace. Be warned, there are some truly repulsive scenes that will make you shudder.

“She wished she could press mounds of rich soil into the gaps of her heart, occupying the space until flowers could take root and grow roses.”

This enthralling retelling kept me engaged from beginning to end and I quickly became invested in the developing relationship between Juliette and Roma. The diversity and LGBTQIA+ inclusion were fantastic and added so much to the story. The ending took me completely by surprise and I can’t wait for the sequel. I’d definitely recommend THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS with its stunning imagery and descriptive prose but it’s not for the faint-hearted!

(Goodreads | Amazon UK | Book Depository)

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